My oldest son Alex tried out for and made the Glade Valley Athletic Association 9U All Star Little League team again this year – go Wildcats! Many of the boys on the baseball team have been together for about 3 years now, and they also play organized football and basketball. It’s been interesting to watch them grow and mature through all the sports, both as players and as young men.
Last year, under the blazing summer sun, the boys were knocked out of the State Little League tournament by a local rival before they could even get to the finals. There were lots of tears and hung heads at the end of that game. Editor’s Note: Except for my other son Nick, who found his summer passion last year – concession stand hotdogs. If there is a hotdog eating All Star team, this 8 year old would be the captain. He woofed down 5 – count ’em 5 – during last Saturday’s games.
In addition to hosting the State tournament at our home fields this year, the boys went undefeated in bracket play, making it to the semi-finals. In the semi-final game, they mercy-ruled the team that knocked them out of the tournament last year. In case you don’t know, mercy-rule means they were leading by 10 or more runs after 4 innings, so the game is over and they don’t have to play all 6 innings. As opposed to what I think the mercy-rule should be, which is free margaritas for all the parents. For the entire game, regardless of the number of innings played.
In the championship game, the boys were up against a team — the Hickory Hornets — that also went undefeated in bracket play. They are an elite team, who had played 40+ games this year. Our boys had played about 20 or so; we knew we were in for a challenging game.
I’ll spare you the suspense – our boys lost the game 4-2. Our opponent was a gracious winner, and the parents from the other team were respectful, encouraging and very proud of the play both teams exhibited. Editor’s note: And thank freakin’ goodness. Because trust me when I tell you, I’ve already seen “Son, what the hell is your problem” screaming-until-veins-in-his-neck-pop-and-his-kid-starts-crying dad, and “You must be blind ump, cuz your calls suck!” bet-she’d-cut-a-bitch mom.
Our boys accepted their second place trophies with a touch of sadness:
But getting them to smile and take a group photo after the game appeared to be absolute torture, even with the parents telling the boys how proud we were of them:
And getting my son to smile was no easier:
In spite of their disappointment and sadness, an amazing thing happened. A couple of them started playing wall ball:
Eventually, most of them joined the wall ball game.
So regardless of coming in second in the championship game, #1 in their hearts was playing ball, having fun and being kids. Which is why — regardless of the championship game’s final score — they are also #1 in my heart.